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Cooper: What went wrong, what's next

Story Highlights

• Case against former Duke lacrosse players "tragic rush to accuse," AG says
• Roy Cooper to propose law to allow court to remove prosecutors from cases
• All charges were dropped against the former lacrosse players
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RALEIGH, North Carolina (CNN) -- North Carolina's attorney general Wednesday blasted what he called a "tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations" after all charges were dropped in the sexual assault case against three former Duke University lacrosse players.

Roy Cooper described how three men -- Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans -- were falsely accused of assaulting a dancer at a party, in a case that sparked national debate over race and the behavior of privileged students.

Cooper's findings boil down to this -- Michael Nifong, the Durham County district attorney who had been handling the case, jumped on a case that had no evidence.

"The result is that these cases are over, and no more criminal proceedings will occur," Cooper said at a press conference. (Full story)

In January, Cooper and his team launched their own investigation after they took over the case from Nifong, who faces multiple ethics complaints from the state bar over his handling of the case.

"We approached this case with the understanding that rape and sexual assault victims often have some inconsistencies in their account of a traumatic event," Cooper said at a press conference.

"However, in this case, the inconsistencies were so significant and so contrary to the evidence that we have no credible evidence that an attack occurred in that house on that night," he said.

The 28-year-old accuser, who has not been identified, at first said the three men raped her in a bathroom, but the rape charges were dropped in December after the woman said she could no longer testify that she had been penetrated with a penis, which, under North Carolina law, is one of the defining factors of rape.

"No DNA confirms the accuser's story. No other witness confirms her story. Other evidence contradicts her story. She contradicts herself," he said.

Despite the lack of evidence, "in this case with the weight of the state behind him, the Durham district attorney pushed forward unchecked," Cooper said.

Cooper announced his plan to prevent a "rogue prosecutor" from pushing forward an unfounded case.

"I propose a law that the North Carolina Supreme Court have the authority to remove a case from a prosecutor in limited circumstances. This would give the courts a new tool to deal with the prosecutor who needs to step away from a case where justice demands," he said.

"There were many points in this case where caution would have served justice better than bravado, and in the rush to condemn, a community and a state lost the ability to see clearly," Cooper said.

Cooper said his office will make public next week a written summary of the important factual findings and some of the specific contradictions that led his staff to the conclusion that no attack occurred.

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